Exploring Sustainability

A software company’s CEO, a travel company’s Director of International Public Policy and an international social enterprise’s Managing Director walk into a classroom… Sounds like a joke? Lucky for MaastrichtMBA Sustainable Innovation elective students, it wasn’t! During the practitioner session of Sustainability and Business Ethics elective week, students and elective week coordinator Dr. Lukas Figge-Muschalik were joined by Ecochain’s Frans-Willem de Kloet, TUI’s and MaastrichtMBA alumnus Ralf Pastleitner and Close the Gap’s Didier Appels. They’re all working hands-on to make sustainability transitions a reality. Their inspiring stories provided insights into the week’s most important question: what does it take to achieve sustainability?

 

Frans-Willem de Kloet, Ralf Pastleitner, and Didier Appels made their way down to Maastricht to tell their organisation’s unique narratives. Despite representing companies with vastly different offerings, they all share one common goal: positively impacting our environment.

Ecochain, TUI and Close the Gap

After a short introduction by Lukas Figge, Frans-Willem de Kloet, CEO at Ecochain, kicks off the practitioner session. He explains everything Ecochain stands for. Ecochain is a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) company with one purpose: empowering companies to make an ongoing sustainable impact on our planet. The organisation enables companies to understand their environmental footprint every time they create a product and thereby make the world a better place than it was before.

 

Following Frans-Willem’s introduction, Ralf Pastleitner, Director International Public Policy at TUI, introduces TUI – not an unknown company to many students. As a global travel and leisure experience company offering 180+ destinations, TUI may seem like the odd one out in this session. However, TUI also has a strong sustainability goal: strengthening the positive impact and reducing the environmental footprint of tourism, which is a sector that also offers many good things to our world.

 

Didier Appels, Managing Director at CTG Circular, offers a third compelling perspective. Close the Gap (CTG) is an international social enterprise that aims to bridge the digital divide by providing high-quality, pre-owned IT devices donated by European companies to educational, medical and social projects in developing and emerging countries. Beyond this, Close the Gap ensures the eco-friendly disposal of devices that have reached the end of their usability, thereby enhancing sustainable e-waste recycling efforts.

Three approaches, one goal

Three very diverse approaches, all trying to make a sustainable impact on our planet. In the following interactive panel discussion, Frans-Willem, Ralf, and Didier provide further insight from their perspective into the answers to that important question: ‘What does it take to achieve sustainability?’

 

Answering each other’s, the student’s, and coordinator Lukas Figge’s questions, the three men eventually come to the conclusion that their companies should start working together: using TUI’s aircrafts to transport CTG’s refurbished devices and Ecochain’s LCA software to understand their environmental footprint and improve their services. “To see the most impactful results, we must start thinking differently and doing things differently,” they conclude.

 

 

An invaluable academic framework

Maurice Lambert, MaastrichtMBA student, echoes this conclusion: “Our world is changing, and we can’t keep doing things the way we’re doing them. If we want to make some impact, companies and individuals must start acting differently. Change starts with us.”

 

As an HR manager, Maurice opted for the Sustainable Innovation elective to develop the expertise needed for designing sustainable HR policies. “I was interested in understanding these concepts better and seeing how I can make a sustainable impact in my daily operations level. I was still quite unfamiliar with this topic when I started this elective week. I am not leaving with answers to every question I have – because it’s such an immensely complex topic that touches all of us. However, I have gained an invaluable academic framework and a lot of inspiration to move forward.”

A strong line of development

Maurice’s fellow student, Bart van de Berg, agrees with Maurice. With a career in energy transition, Bart has been dealing with sustainability for most of his career: “As it is such an extensive topic that affects all aspects of our lives, but sustainability can also be a complex theme. You can loose track in this complexity. It is a great challenge to develop economical and societal solutions who fit into this complexity.”

 

“I feel like you are never done learning about it; that’s why I chose this elective”, he continues. “Throughout this week, I have added so much new knowledge to my existing knowledge. I keep getting new examples of things I can do, and organisations can do to create an impact. I have noticed a strong line of development, and this week has certainly helped me to structure my knowledge and put ideas in my mind to explore further. The one-word summary? Interesting and inspiring. That is two words, but they are both very fitting! It has certainly helped me to extend my knowledge and decision making capabilities.”

 

 

This article displays the student insights and experiences of the Sustainability & Business Ethics module of the Sustainable Innovation elective. The MaastrichtMBA programme has an executive modular part-time format and offers two tracks: On-Campus MBA and Online MBA. The programme has a Triple Crown accreditation and is aimed for professionals with at least 5 years of working experience.

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